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Dogs and Ear Infections- Is your dog always digging at those ears?


dog ear infectionIs your dog constantly itching, scratching, and digging into his ears with his paws? Or shaking his head? If so, your dog may have an ear infection.

Ear infections are one of the most common ailments that pet owners will see. Some breeds are more prone to them than others such as Golden/Labrador Retrievers, Bassett Hounds, and English Bulldogs, but any dog can get them. The most common type of ear infection is called otitis externa, which is inflammation of the external ear canal. Most dogs with this type of infection experience itchiness, brown/yellow/ bloody discharge, redness, swelling, and you may notice an odor that could be describe as moldy bread if you get too close to your dogs head (this type of smell is most commonly caused by a yeast infection, which is the most common type of infection found in the ear). Your dog’s behavior might be off as well- he might be wiping the side of his head on the floor or furniture, scratching and digging his paw into the ear, and in extreme cases may have a head tilt, hearing loss, or loss of balance.

So, what causes an ear to get infected? If you have a water loving dog, than swimming may be the culprit. The canine ear is shaped like an”L”, so it is much more difficult for your dog to get the water out of their ear. Thus, the water sits in the ear, breeding bacteria and causing an infection. You can help prevent this from happening by using a swimmers solution or an ear cleanser after swimming. These products have a drying agent in them which will help to remove any excess moisture from the ear. Along the same line, if your pet is groomed frequently your groomer may unknowingly be causing the problem by unintentionally getting water into the ear canal during bathing. If you notice that your dog’s infections develop soon after being groomed, ask your groomer to put some cotton balls in your dog’s ears before bathing. The cotton will help protect the ears by keeping most of the moisture out. One of the most common causes of ear infections is allergies. This can be contact allergies such as grasses, pollens, etc., but it can also be food allergies. If your dog develops chronic ear infections and it’s not due to water activities, talk to your veterinarian about allergy testing.

epi-optic advance ear cleaner

The only way to keep the ear from getting infected is to find out what the underlying cause is. Once you find out the cause, your veterinarian may recommend that you clean your dog’s ears on a maintenance schedule, which can be anything from weekly, every 2 weeks or even monthly depending on your dog. Here are 6 simple steps to cleaning your dog’s ears:

  1.  If possible, take your dog outside, or in an easy to clean room. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did later.
  2. Take your ear cleanser, and fill the ear canal until the ear is over flowing. Try your best to not let your dog shake their head at this point.
  3. Gently massage at the base of the ear. You will want to hear a squishing, fluid like sound. This is good! This means that the ear cleanser is moving around, breaking up all the waxy discharge.
  4. Now, remember step one? This is why you will be happy you are outside or in an easy to clean area- let your dog shake his head to his heart’s content! This step with cause all of the ear cleanser and waxy discharge to fly out of the ear canal, which is what you want. Your dog shaking his head has done half of the work for you!
  5. Once your dog is done shaking his head, check and see if there is any discharge left in the ear. If there is, take a dry gauze pad and wipe off the excess. You can put your finger into the dog’s ear canal to remove any discharge if needed. Remember, the canal is shaped like an “L” so you will not hit the ear drum. However, do NOT use Q-Tips! This is because if your dog decides to shake his head, the Q-Tip could break inside the ear, which is an emergency situation. Stick to gauze pads and cotton balls only please!
  6. If your veterinarian feels it is necessary, follow up any cleaning with ear medication based on their directions.

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